Race, Place and Poverty Revisited

June 2006

Michael A. Stoll, UCLA

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It was not long ago when the lens viewing urban America displayed chocolate cities and vanilla suburbs. Popular funk bands of the 1970s such as Pariament with their megahit “Chocolate Cities” helped mold this understanding through musical lyris that decribed Amercan urban areas becoming darker and poorer while suburbs were emerging white and rich (Avila, 2004). Of couse, cities were not always understood in these terms historically; most were the homes of the middle class even while poorer immigrants landed there to explore their social and economic aspirations. But the great black migrations out of the South to the North in the early and mid 1900s, coupled with de jure and de facto Jim Crow discrimination that limited the economic and residential opportunities of blacks, began to change the socio-economic and racial profile of cities. This, in conjunction with rapid suburbanization of mostly middle-income whites in the post war period, left central cities with growing concentrations of poverty, especially minority poverty, thereby sealing the connection between race, place and poverty. Central cities were increasingly seen as black and poor, while suburbs were emerging white and as the main regions of population and employment growth and wealth creation.

Discrimination, Housing, Race and Ethnicity